Archive for Operating Systems

Fun with File Permissions – Part 1

First, a little side story. I like messing around with my Linux computer. I have fun just seeing what the operating system can do. I like to talk about what I find, probably because learning new things excites me. I get giddy when I find out something new about something that’s familiar. Unfortunately, in my house, no one cares but me. I sometimes try telling my wife about it, but to say she doesn’t care is an understatement. She doesn’t even pretend to pay attention when I’m talking any more.

I was playing around with Linux file permissions the other day. I’ve been using Linux on my personal desktop for over a decade, and I use it at work as a developer. I’ve never spent a lot of time where I was the one who administered a multi-user environment, so file permissions were always the basics for me. In my playing the other day, I found a whole bunch of new things that I never even knew existed, and since my wife would rather watch paint dry than hear me talk about file permissions in Linux, I’m turning to you.

I’m sure most people reading this post are familiar (at least superficially) with Linux file permissions. Simply doing an “ls -l” will show you the long listing format of the current directory. The very front of the line will show you the permissions of each file in the list. An example:


The top entry is a file, the second is a directory. Whether that file is a directory, link, or regular file is represented by the first character. – means that it’s a file, d that it’s a directory. Extremely simple. The next nine characters are broken down into three characters each representing the file’s permissions.

The first three characters are the owner’s rights, the second group of three is the Group’s rights, and the last group of three is the rights of everybody else.

What the example above shows us is that the owner of the file can read, write, and execute the file, the Group and the average user on the system only show execute rights. For the directory, the owner can read and write, but no one else can do anything at all.

These rights can be changed using the chmod command at the Linux command line. There’s a GUI to do this too, but I’m not going to deal with it right now because I really don’t feel like it. chmod uses a numeric combination to determine what rights to set. An example:

chmod 755 filename

This command give the file these rights:


Basically, it gives the owner full rights to read, write, and execute. Everybody else can read and execute, but no writing.

Maybe I should be embarrassed by this, but for years I didn’t understand what the 7s or 5s or whatever represented. It seemed like arbitrarily assigned values. I was wrong about that, and the way that those values are arrived at is really ingenious in it’s simplicity. Let’s count a little bit in Binary:

1 = 001 = --x
2 = 010 = -w-
3 = 011 = -wx
4 = 100 = r--
5 = 101 = r-x
6 = 110 = rw-
7 = 111 = rwx

See what I mean? Brilliant in its simplicity.

There’s so much more to go into, but I’ve already gotten fairly long winded about this tonight. There will be at least two more parts to this little adventure I’m on. Tomorrow I want to cover getfacl and setfacl, and the day after lsattr and chattr.

If there are any more subjects on file permissions that you’d like to see covered, please let me know in comments and we can add more days.

iFanatical Idiocy

A bit of a rant here.

I ran across this graphic on CounterNotions (I only bother to link because this guy has Apple so far up his rectum he’d probably sue me for copyright violation if I didn’t link to him).

This graphic is a perfect example of the thought process of many iFanatics I’ve run across. Ever wonder why so many of them think that Android is a copy of iOS?

For some reason, Windows/Microsoft is now the source of inspiration for anything that has grass. Apple is the source of inspiration for anything that has icons. Google can only be Search.

Does this  make any logical or technological sense? No, not even a little. Don’t even bother trying to tell them that.

Android: Intent on Winning

I doubt many people were not aware of Apple’s latest announcements concerning iOS. Of course Apple again held their little party and pomped and circumstanced all over. This is to be expected. Pretty much any company making an announcement will do virtually the same thing. What concerns me is the reaction to these announcements in the media.

I ran across a comparison over on PCWorld.

First of all, the comparison itself is bogus. The author took only the features that Apple announced that were new about iOS, and compared other platforms to that list. This automatically gives iOS the upper hand. If I were to list the new features of Android or even Win7Phone and compare those to another platform, it’s going to appear as if the OSs being compared are falling short. Unfortunately, this is pretty normal behavior for PCWorld. There are quite a number of Apple fans on staff and they conceal it rather poorly, if they make an effort at all.

Second of all is the small portion of the chart that I pulled out and posted down below (headers left intact for ease of understanding).

See how the Facebook and Twitter integration for Android is listed as “3rd party apps only”? To me, this is implied inferiority from the creator of this chart. It screams “iOS does this better because it’s integrated and in Android it’s not!” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. The chart is technically correct. Android doesn’t build Twitter or Facebook support directly into the Operating System. Instead it does something much better. Intents.

An intent in Android is a mechanism allowing for apps to communicate with each other. This includes the OS itself.

Using Intents, Android can create very similar functionality to what iOS users see when Apple integrates a service into the OS. Not being integrated is it’s greatest strength. This allows for Android to give integrated type functionality to any application installed on the device. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, you name it.

Because the service isn’t integrated, the OS is a lot more versatile.

Allow me to propose a hypothetical. In the not very distant future, Apple trots out iOS6 on it’s new iPhone, complete with it’s neat and spiffy Facebook integration. Shortly after that, there’s a social revolution. A new player appears on the scene. Let’s call it MyFace. Because of several new and really cool features MyFace offers that Facebook doesn’t, users leave Facebook in droves. Facebook becomes a ghost town. iOS users are now finding this new Facebook integration almost entirely useless. Android users simply delete the Facebook app from their device and install the new and really shiny MyFace app. Intents allow for MyFace to be instantly integrated with the device. A year passes, and Apple finally gets around to updating their OS to implement MyFace, removing the now defunct Facebook, only to find that MyFace is old hat. It’s been replaced with a new service, SpaceBook. Android users simply remove MyFace from their device, install SpaceBook, and go on with their social lives. iOS users are stuck waiting, again.

Now, is this analogy plausible? Well, two new and dominating social networks over the course of a two years is pretty far fetched, but that’s not the point. With Android, it doesn’t matter how fast the industry changes. Android changes just as fast. Intents allow for that to happen. iOS is not nearly as agile. It’s slow and dependent on Apple to move it forward.

To often today I’m seeing journalists holding up one of Apple’s greatest weaknesses as if it were one of it’s greatest strengths. Make no mistake, iOS is a dinosaur. It just doesn’t know that it’s extinct yet.

iPhone and Galaxy S III – Not the Same

Just a quick note to the iFans out there that are claiming that Apple’s iPhone 4s and Samsung’s Galaxy S III look so much alike. Look again!

Keep in mind that the following statements actually came from a real message from an iFan.

Virtually all Android devices have 3 or 4 buttons on the bottom, yet Samsung made a single Home button in the middle and faded the 4 buttons so that the surface of the device closely resembles that of the iPhone.

No it doesn’t.

Almost all Android devices use USB, but Samsung made their connector to look virtually identical to that of Apple’s 30 pin cable.

No they didn’t.

To an extent devices are going to look similar. It’s the nature of the type of devices we have now. Perhaps separately these minor things wouldn’t be noticed. But combined they show a desire to tell potential customers that their devices are just the same.

These devices are not “just the same”. No amount of repeating Apple’s lies will make that true. Next time, try facts.

A Linux User’s Day with a Mac

Oh $#!+.

Several days ago, I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when a received a new email. This is a regular occurrence for me, as I’m sure it is with most people in today’s office workplace. With not even a thought, I open it.

It’s not what you think. I didn’t get a virus or get fired or anything weird. It was a message from our corporate IT department informing me that my computer was due for a “refresh”.

What is a “refresh” you ask? Well, that’s when they take your computer and replace it with a new one. To top it off, I’d been selected to be a part of our Windows 7 pilot program. Our company is finally moving away from Windows XP and upgrading to Windows 7.

My reaction? “Oh $#!+.”

There’s no getting out of this, so I dutifully copy all my files that I hadn’t already stored on the network drive to a location where they will be safe. The IT department wants my computer “First thing in the morning”, so I drop my computer off at 8:00. They inform me that it will be at least 3 hours before my new one is ready.

My choices are now simple. I can either do without a computer for 3+ hours, or I can find a different system to use.

Casting my eye around my department, there is only one computer currently unused. One of our test systems. A Mac.

How bad can it be I ask myself? I used Macs quite a lot back in the 90s, and for a while was the “Mac guy” at the computer shop, fixing people’s broken Macs. Apple has always been renown for it’s ease of use and beauty. It was only for a couple hours. I could handle this!

Linux User

So, I’m sure anybody reading this is more than aware that my system of preference is Linux. I use Windows at work, but my home system is Linux Mint 12. I’ve made some changes to the default interface, and only use the top bar. I have no bottom bar. Most everything else is fairly stock.

My Thoughts on OSX

So, here’s where I tell you all about my experience. To put it as plainly as I can, it sucked.

First, the dock.

OSX, like Windows, has this stupid bar at the bottom. In the bar are your favorite apps, and running applications. Why should this be on your screen all the time? I know that you can have the stupid thing hide, but every time your mouse approaches that part of your screen, it pops up like some hyperactive chiwawa. It’s as bad as Windows. This is not something that needs to be on the screen all the time. The only time you need to see it is when you’re launching something new, or looking for something that’s already running.

Second, Exposé.

Exposé is actually the perfect solution for switching between applications, it’s it’s limitations in OSX make that impractical. Only applications not minimized show up in Exposé? Not smart. This is a much better way to pick between your windows rather than some nondescript icons where you can’t tell the difference between one terminal window or another. It effectively makes half of the dock completely useless. Why have that half of the dock when the functionality is better represented elsewhere?

Third, Spaces.

What kind of a half-assed hack is this? The functionality has been around in various forms of Unix since the 80s. It’s been improved upon and made very useful, but Apple’s version looks like something straight out of 1988.

Fourth, Exposé and Spaces?

Why the heck have both of them? In Linux Mint, hitting the super key on the keyboard brings up Mint’s Exposé type feature, with the virtual desktops along the right hand side of the monitor. They’re not seperate screens, and Windows can literally be moved from the existing Exposé type view to a completely different virtual space without leaving that screen. One screen, two functions. Apple’s method is straight out of the 90s, if that. It’s ancient, limited, and impractical.

Fifth, Macintosh HD.

On the system that I used, the only icon on the desktop was the Macintosh HD icon. This icon opened up to show your standard file browser type appliation, but what is all this junk inside of it? It takes you to a location that looks like / on a Linux box. Why the heck would you want to go there by default? You need access to your files! When I open Nautilus on my Linux box, it goes to my home directory! MINE. /home/mike. Not some random location with crap that I’m rarely if ever going to want to go to. I mean, “lost+found” and “Library”? What the hell?

Sixth, the Clock.

You’re probably wondering, what could possibly be bad about the clock? It’s a clock for pity’s sake. True, and as a time piece, OSX does very well. What I’m missing is functionality that I use every day in Linux but find sorely missing in OSX. Heck, even Windows does this. When you click on the clock on a Windows 7 box, you get a bigger clock and a calendar, as well as the ability to change your preferences. OSX is missing the calendar completely. On my Linux box, not only do I get a calendar, but on the right, I have a list of all my meetings. Below the meetings, I can open up my actual calendar application! Great functionality in the perfect place. Functionality sorely missing from OSX.

That’s what I found most about OSX. Missing functionality. Chances as making a good interface missed. In closing, I want to show you something. 







On the left, we see OSX, 10.0. Pristine the day it was launched. On the right, we have OSX, 10.7.3. 10.0 from 2001, 10.7.3 from 2011. A full 10 years difference. What’s changed? There’s a new, cool 3d effect on the dock. Color scheme has changed a bit. Yea, that’s pretty much it. This is the “innovative” OS? Are you shitting me?? Seriously?

Don’t even get me started on this iPad type launcher turd.


So, how does the story end? When all was said and done, I was able to work in OSX. Corporate IT ended up taking 7 hours instead of 3 like I was hoping, so I ended up getting my new Windows 7 computer close to the end of the day. I can say it was with real glee that I ditched OSX to run (RUN I tell you) back to Windows (and that’s saying something). After starting some file transfers to get my personal files back on my hard drive, I gratefully went home, sat down in front of my “ugly”, “hard to use” Linux box and sighed with relief. I hope I don’t have to do that again for many, many years.

Second Thoughts about Linux

I’ve had people ask when they find out that I’m a Linux user if I miss Windows. Do I ever have any second thoughts about moving from Windows? They think that I have to, or maybe that I’ve never tried a Mac and that’s why I’ve chosen Linux over a Mac.

I recently agreed to help out a friend of mine who’s computer wasn’t working correctly. She dropped her computer off with me, and I setup the beast in an empty space. I fire this thing up to find that it’s running, of course, Windows XP. Everything seems to load up correctly, but the DNS just isn’t working. Pings work, no DNS. I go through the regular fixes and nothing is working.

This isn’t a “please help me fix this stupid Windows XP” type of post. No, it’s nothing like that. I’ve done this exact thing so many times, I can’t even tell you. I couldn’t begin to count. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of times. Every time, it’s the same crap. Infinite amounts of frustration.

See, people are always telling me how hard Linux is to make work. I don’t think that those people have the foggiest idea what goes into keeping Windows up and running correctly. My Linux desktop sits there on my desk, happily running along with never a care in the world. Every (and I mean that) Windows computer I’ve run across has had some type of problem.

So, to all those people out there that wonder if I miss Windows or if I’ve ever had second thoughts? The answer is HELL NO.

That’s all I wanted to say.

Screw those Arrogant Linux Using Jerks

I’ve been using Linux now for quite a while. I couldn’t even tell you when I first tried it. I can place a general time around 1997 or 1998. Probably 1997. So, if my math isn’t truly horrible, about 15 years with Linux. During that time, I’ve had many, many computers. I think Linux is amazing and right now, I wouldn’t use anything else, but I can say that it hasn’t always worked perfectly for me. When I’ve had troubles with it, I’ve done what every other person does when they have troubles. First, I Google. Second, I ask friends. Third, I go to the forums. I can’t think of a single negative experience I’ve had in the process.

Over the years, I’ve talked to many different people about Linux. Not all of them are fans. That’s just the way of humans. One thing that I’ve run into with some of the more…. let’s call them “unreasonable” people is the claim that “getting support from the Linux forums is a horrible experience. Linux users are rude, arrogant, condescending, blah blah blah.” Getting support for Linux is a really negative experience for them.

But here’s the trick.

Out of the people that I’ve seen make this claim I know a handful well enough to say, they’re dicks. Absolute assholes. Seeing them claim that the people on the Linux forums are big meanies just makes me wonder. Was the person hanging around the Linux forums just waiting to help out people that need a hand and receives no compensation other than personal satisfaction the rude, arrogant, and condescending one?

If you need to go to the forums and ask a Linux question, that’s fine. Be nice about it. These people aren’t paid to put up with your shit. Try to do a little research before hand and not just wade in expecting them to solve all your problems. If they have questions for you, that’s normal. I can absolutely guarantee you that no matter how much detail you put into your question, you missed something that might be important. If they start out with basic questions, don’t be offended. They deal with a lot of people, and not all of them are computer experts. They don’t know you.

Above all, show some respect. You’re coming to them for help. They don’t need anything from you. If you cop a ‘tude, expect them to ignore your whiny ass. It’s not because they’re rude, or arrogant, or condescending. It’s because you’re being a prick, and if you’re going to be a prick, you can fix your own goddamn problems.


Windows for Gaming

It’s funny. For years, I kept around a Windows partition just so that I could play the few games that still appealed to me.

Back in 2000, I picked up a copy of Unreal Tournament. I’m not even very good at it. Anybody that’s played me in PVP will attest, I’m the human shaped red splotch. Despite that, I really enjoyed playing, and I’ve kept it installed on every computer I’ve owned since up until the last one. It came with Windows 7 on it, and unfortunately, the game just didn’t work anymore. I can understand that. The game is over a decade old, and these things just can’t last forever. Still, I was really disappointed to lose one of my old favorites.

The other game I played was World of Warcraft. I’d never been to much into RPGs, but some coworkers got me into it back in around 2005. I wasn’t in the first round, but I did make my way mostly through vanilla. I finally cancelled my account a couple months back just out of sheer apathy. It’s still a fun game to play, and I think I’ll reup when the next expansion comes out. I just don’t feel like paying to rep grind right now.

I didn’t really have any other games that I was playing other than Fruit Ninja on my Xbox, so the point in having a Windows partition was lost. When I installed Ubuntu 11.10, Windows went the way of the dodo. Good riddance in my book. I’ve since moved to Mint 12, which I really enjoy.

A while back, I thought that I’d try out World of Warcraft in Linux. It was a snap. Didn’t require any special configuration or anything. The game just loaded like a dream in my Linux environment.  All the more reason that I’m happy without Windows.

In an odd twist of fate, I ran across my Unreal Tournament game this weekend. The thought crossed my mind that since World of Warcraft worked so well, maybe I could get Unreal Tournament working. It didn’t work in Windows 7, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t work in Linux. So, a brief install later, and some minor messing with WINE configuration to make it run in a Window instead of full screen, I have a working version of Unreal Tournament on my Linux box.

All those years of keeping a Windows partition just to play games were pointless. I can do anything and everything I’ve ever wanted to do on a computer on Linux. I don’t know that I’d recommend my configuration to a real gamer, but to a casual like myself, it turns out that Linux is probably just as good as Windows for gaming.

Now, if more people just knew that.

The NEW iPad!

I heard that there’s a new iPad!

I’m REALLY excited.

Current Desktop

I just thought that I’d take this opportunity (since I’m kinda bored and couldn’t think of anything to write about) to post a screen capture of my current desktop.

I don’t know if it’s the people that I hang around with, or if it’s actually more global, but it seems like there’s been kind of a push towards minimalism within the Linux/Unix community. It could be a carry over from the mobile market. Who knows. Regardless, I like the spartan look.

Here’s what I have as of right now.